I Finally Had a Successful NaNoWriMo

Look at that. I never thought I’d legitimately make it there.

Hi, everyone! It’s been a while and for good reason: I spent the month of September working on my National Novel Writing Month project and didn’t want to overextend myself, as it were, by maintaining a daily or semi-daily blog post. I rarely have moments of feeling proud of myself, so if you’ll indulge me about this project. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was in the second grade and wrote my first story (a horror story!). When I was 15, I learned about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it is shortened, where you spend the month of November writing 50,000 words, or about 200 pages. For the next 16 years, I failed every year, either never attempting and the resulting guilt hanging over my head all month or attempting but quitting quickly. I never felt like I had it in me: How the hell do people write novels? As a diehard fan of the Halloween holiday, it also doesn’t help that NaNoWriMo starts the day after Halloween, but that’s yet another built-in excuse I’ve used.

This year, I started again. Like usual, I had no outline or pre-established idea. I was “pantsing” it as they call such a method. That is, I didn’t write an outline of my story. Still, I wrote. I picked up Simon, my latest foster dog, on November 10th, and I thought, here it is: My excuse for quitting again. Instead, I did something I never thought I would do. I wrote any chance I could get, in between walks with him and on walks with him, whenever and however. Not exactly an advisable strategy, given how difficult it can be to walk a dog, walk yourself, and write at the same time, but I had to get the writing in. Plus, the walks became a great way to strategize creatively: How do I get my characters out of the situation I just put them in?

Something else that helped compared to past attempts was that I didn’t get bogged down in research rabbit holes. Yes, I still Googled certain things to help me along the way, but I didn’t get distracted by the researching at the cost of the writing. I just wrote.

I became somebody that wrote perhaps more than three-fourths of this “book” (I can’t help but hedge with the scare quotes) in the Notes app on my phone. And for the next 30 days consecutively, I wrote 1,667 words at least, and often more.

Perhaps even more wild than writing while walking the dog or doing a lot of my writing in the Notes app on my phone is that my “soundtrack” to NaNoWriMo was The King of Queens. I made it through almost three full seasons of the sitcom, one of my favorites, while writing. Something about having a “comfort” sitcom show on the background helped. I can’t explain it, either.

I finished. I freaking finished! I’m glad I didn’t quit. I’m glad I didn’t use the new foster dog (and a wild puppy at that!) to quit. I’m glad I didn’t quit for the myriad other reasons I’ve used in the past. And the best feeling is that I never felt stretched or forced when writing. My story unfolded organically and even though I surpassed 50,000 words for the first time, the story isn’t complete (another reason for hedging on “book”). I have more to write. I’m a long way from having something worth pitching to a publishing house, but for once, I at least have something to work on. That is a great feeling. In the few days since I finished NaNoWriMo and gave myself a break from writing, I’ve had the gnawing sense of my characters screaming from the situation I left them in, “Hey, don’t leave us here!” I’ll be back to get you all.

(And no, the “book” has nothing to do with Michael Myers, and Bleeding from the Typewriter is not the title. Those were placeholders.)

Have any of you tried your writing hand at NaNoWriMo and what has been your experience, if so?

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